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The County Commissioners will hold a public listening session regarding potential expansion of the size of the Board of County Commissioners to five members. The Board currently consists of three Commissioners who are elected every four years. The last election was in 2014.
The purpose of the listening session is to get public input to determine if there is enough interest in expanding the size of the Board for the Commissioners to move forward. The listening session will take place on Tuesday, August 9 from 6:00 – 7:30 PM at the Circuit Courthouse, 109 Market Street. In order to make sure everyone has time to be heard, speakers will be asked to limit their comments to five minutes.
Residents may also submit their thoughts on the issue via this survey. The answers to frequently asked questions about the five Commissioner issue appear below the survey questions. Scroll all the way to the bottom and click submit to send your responses.
Some people believe a larger governing body is better, while some think a smaller Board is the best option. A non-binding poll on the ballot in 1998 showed a majority (58%) of residents favored five Commissioners. It has been nearly 20 years since that poll and during that time, attempts to expand the Board to five members did not pass due to a lack of public support. The Commissioners have committed to trying to resolve the question during their term and believe it is necessary to start the process by taking the public’s temperature on the issue.
Yes, there will be some ongoing expenses. Each Commissioner currently makes a salary of $15,000, which is set at the local level. Commissioners are also currently eligible for County health insurance. Additionally, the County pays for work tools, like laptops and cell phones, and their attendance at statewide county association conferences. Commissioners may also receive expense reimbursement for things like mileage under the same conditions as County employees. Therefore, two additional Commissioners will result in a modest increase in these operational expenses.
No, increasing the size of the Board can be done at a county level through a local legislative process.
If the Board is expanded to five members, the Commissioners believe strongly that the county must have the authority for staggered terms. Staggered terms would allow only some (2 or 3) of the Commissioners to be elected at one time, rather than all five at once. This would help to ensure stability and continuity of the County government. Currently only one Maryland county is authorized to have staggered terms, so this would require a constitutional amendment. Constitutional amendments must be approved by voters statewide.
The earliest a five member Board could be elected would be 2018. If a constitutional amendment to allow staggered terms is not able to be placed on the ballot prior to the 2018 election, an election for five Commissioners would be pushed back.
The Commissioners have the authority to design the election process for the Board of Commissioners at the local level. Currently all three Commissioners are elected at-large, meaning they can live anywhere in the county and are elected by all residents. District elections traditionally require a candidate to live in a specific district and only be elected by residents who live in that district. A five Commissioner Board could be elected all at-large, all using districts, or using a combination of district members and at-large members.
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